The Rubber City’s Dynamic Duo
Bob Toth | On 12, Apr 2016
The prospect focus for the Cleveland Indians over the last several seasons has been on the development of shortstop Francisco Lindor, who has lived up to all of the hype and expectations bestowed upon him when he was selected with the eighth overall pick in the 2011 draft.
Now that he has firmly planted himself at the top of the Cleveland lineup and has secured the shortstop position for years to come and the Indians’ first rounder from 2012, Tyler Naquin, has joined the Major League roster, the attention has turned to a pair of top prospects on the farm who both are occupying spots near the top of the Akron RubberDucks lineup.
Bradley Zimmer and Clint Frazier rank number one and two respectively on MLB Pipeline’s top 30 prospect list for the Indians and fans in the Rubber City are in for a treat as they watch the progression of each of this dynamic duo.
Zimmer, 23, is a left-handed hitting outfielder who could factor heavily into the void in center field in the Indians lineup as soon as 2017. The La Jolla, California, native was taken as a junior by Cleveland with the 21st pick overall in the 2014 June Amateur Draft out of the University of San Francisco. He is trying to become the seventh member of the Dons to reach the Major Leagues, but in order to do so, he will have to surpass his brother Kyle Zimmer, a top pitching prospect in the Kansas City Royals farm system.
The Indians’ Zimmer was drafted in 2011 out of high school in the 23rd round by the Chicago Cubs, but elected to go to school. The move paid off with his first round selection three years later. He immediately jumped into action down on the farm for the Tribe, getting 45 games of playing time at Mahoning Valley that season (.304 average, .401 on-base percentage, eleven doubles, two triples, four homers, 30 RBI, eleven stolen bases) before appearing in three games with the Lake County Captains (.273, .385 OBP, one double, two homers, two RBI, one stolen base).
He started last season with the Lynchburg Hillcats and played in 78 games for the Indians’ affiliate in Virginia. He hit .308 with a .403 OBP and had 17 doubles, three triples, ten homers, and 39 RBI while stealing 32 of 37 bases attempted. His impressive first half earned him a trip to the 2015 SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game in Cincinnati and following the contest, he was promoted to Double-A Akron. His numbers dropped significantly in his first efforts with the RubberDucks, hitting .219 with a .313 OBP, nine doubles, one triple, six homers, and 24 RBI while stealing 12 of 14 bases, but he was two and a half years younger than other hitters in the league and he was also playing with a hairline fracture in his right foot that was discovered after the season. The injury prevented him from playing in the Arizona Fall League following the completion of the minor league season.
Zimmer displays five-tool skills, with solid pop and average and plus speed on the base paths. He has also proved himself to be a good defender in center, where he has played the bulk of his innings in the minors. He got his first real taste of right field at the professional level last season while in Lynchburg, where one-third of his appearances came in right field. He may be a top of the order candidate when he gets to Cleveland, but as he fills out, he could fall in the order if his power continues to develop.
Frazier, 21, was selected one year before Zimmer with the fifth overall pick of the 2013 draft out of Loganville High School in Loganville, Georgia. He made his debut with the Indians’ rookie league team in Arizona and showcased his offensive abilities, hitting .297 with a .362 OBP, eleven doubles, five triples, five homers, and 28 RBI in 44 games.
The young right-handed hitter spent all of 2014 with the Lake County Captains, appearing in 120 games. He hit .266 on the season with a .349 OBP, slugging 18 doubles, six triples, 13 homers, and driving in 50 runs while stealing 12 bases. It earned him a move to Lynchburg in 2015, where he teamed up with Zimmer in the Hillcats outfield. In 133 games, he hit .285 with a .377 OBP. His doubles output doubled from 18 to 36 while adding three triples and 16 homers and driving in 72 runs. He improved his walk rate slightly and his strikeout rate dropped from nearly 30% of his plate appearances in 2014 to just over 21% in 2015.
He played for Scottsdale of the Arizona Fall League after the season and hit .281 with a double, two triples, three homers, and eight RBI in 22 games, and was placed with the RubberDucks to start the 2016 season.
Like Zimmer, Frazier has played the majority of his time in center field, but he worked in time in right field as well in Lynchburg last season and has spent time in the corner outfield spots for Akron so far this season. His bat and speed could be the most impressive pieces of his game, as his bat speed and his power potential both are some of the tops in the minors.
Fans of the RubberDucks got a taste of what both men could do in a lineup on Monday night when Akron began a three-game series against the Altoona Curve.
The RubberDucks improved to 4-0 on the season with a solid 9-1 win to support left-handed pitching prospect Rob Kaminsky on the mound in his first start for Akron. After an uneventful first inning for Frazier in the two hole and Zimmer behind him in the lineup, the pair came up in the third. Frazier homered to left-center to push the Akron lead to 3-0. Zimmer walked and later stole second base.
The pair came up again in the fourth, as Frazier reached on a throwing error to load the bases and Zimmer worked a walk to force in the fourth run of the night. Frazier grounded out for the second out in the sixth in his third at bat, but Zimmer homered to left-center to make it an 8-0 game. Frazier flew out in the ninth before Zimmer homered again to right-center to give the game its final 9-0 decision.
Zimmer has hit in three of the RubberDucks’ first four games, including a pair of two-hit efforts. He is hitting .294 (5-for-17, one double, two homers, five RBI, two walks) and has stolen one base.
Frazier has hits in each of his first four Double-A games, including a three-hit effort on Friday. He is hitting .333 on the season (6-for-18, two doubles, one homer, one RBI, one walk) and has struck out just three times in his first 20 plate appearances.
RubberDucks fans will get their first look at the two together in Akron when the team comes home to Canal Park for its first homestand of the season on Thursday when they host the Bowie BaySox for four straight before welcoming in the Binghamton Mets for three starting Monday.
Photo: Mike Cardew/Akron Beacon Journal